§ Mr. Bercow
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many days were lost due to sickness absence in the Department in each of the last four years. 
§ Mr. Bradshaw
The following is the information:
Average number of days sickness absence per staff year Year Days 1997 18.9 1998 18.0 1999 2n/a 2000 6.1 1 Figures for 1997 to 1998 have been uplifted to account for different recording practices in different parts of the Department and its overseas Posts. These figures are based on the average number of days, including weekends, whereas later figures are based on the average number of working days only. 2 Figures for 1999 could be provided only at disproportionate cost: the method of recording changed part way through 1999.
We now have a new reporting system in place, which allows us to monitor sickness in detail and effectively manage individual cases. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is committed to reducing sickness absence by 20 per cent. (to an average of 6.5 days) by 2001 and by 30 per cent. (5.6 days) by 2003. These figures were set against the 1998 baseline figure of eight days. Early indications are that we are on course to meet these targets.